Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Say bye-bye to the 1st Amendment:

According to reports from protestor Brett Bursey and the press, police officers arrested Mr. Bursey for standing with thousands of Republicans welcoming the President at a Columbia, South Carolina airport because Mr. Bursey refused to change or put down his sign. Mr. Bursey reports he was told that if he wanted to protest the President, he would have to go to the designated protest site half a mile away near a highway and outside the sight and hearing of the President. “It’s the content of your sign,” officials said.

The sign in question said "No More War for Oil". Congress appears ready to start fighting back. In a letter to John Ashcroft Barney Frank and other Democratic congresspeople said:

In the letter to Ashcroft released today, the Members of Congress called the prosecution of Mr. Bursey for carrying his sign outside the designated free speech zone “a threat to the freedom of expression we should all be defending”:

“As we read the First Amendment to the Constitution, the United States is a ‘free speech zone’. In the United States, free speech is the rule, not the exception, and citizens’ rights to express it do not depend on their doing it in a way the President finds politically amenable . . . . We ask that you make it clear that we have no interest as a government in “zoning” Constitutional freedoms, and that being politically annoying to the President of the United States is not a criminal offense. This prosecution smacks of the use of the Sedition Acts two hundred years ago to protect the President from political discomfort. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. We urge you to drop this prosecution based so clearly on the political views being expressed by the individual who is being prosecuted.”

[Via Kos]